Andy McKee has Tommy Emmanuel in his corner as he deals exhilarating electric guitar blows in raucous Rocky IV medley

Andy McKee
(Image credit: Andy McKee/YouTube)

Andy McKee recently released his Symbol covers EP – his first solo effort since 2014’s Mythmaker – and as such we’ve already been treated to a number of record’s highlights: a stunning acoustic interpretation of Prince’s Purple Rain and a dazzling rendition of Michael Hedges’ Ragamuffin.

Now, the two fingerstyle masterclasses have been joined by a Guitar World-exclusive music video for the EP’s most eyebrow-raising, but arguably most entertaining, inclusion – McKee’s Rocky IV Medley.

A self-professed fanatic of the Rocky IV soundtrack since he was six years old, McKee enlisted Vince DiCola – the man who composed some of McKee’s favorite Rocky tracks – to help assemble a medley of War and Training Montage.

The concept of the medley lends itself to being a particularly awe-inspiring tour de force of McKee’s guitar playing prowess, but when you throw the music video into the mix as well, the result is quite extraordinary.

Playing the role of the boxer “Iron”, McKee dusts off his Ernie Ball Music Man electric guitar to go toe-to-toe with his fellow "Title Fight" contender via some fierce fretboard explorations, before ultimately being floored by the keys player, "The Champion."

Cue the comeback training montage, which, as well as featuring some motivating cinematic visuals, features some equally tasty playing, including some synth-supported rapid-fire flurries and melodic overdriven licks.

The highlight of the track is, however, the rematch, for which McKee recruits acoustic legend Tommy Emmanuel as his coach in a bid to deliver "The Champion" some neat pentatonic jabs, a flurry of melodic left hooks, a smattering of sustain-laden upper-cuts and a devastating six-string knockout.

Of the Rocky IV Medley, McKee reflected, “That was about as surreal as it gets for me. I became a fan of Vince’s work when I was six years old and I bought that soundtrack to the film on cassette.

Andy McKee and Tommy Emmanuel

(Image credit: Andy McKee/YouTube)

“I used to listen to it all the time on my Sony Walkman and I really found that my favorite tunes were the instrumental tracks, which were War and Training Montage from Vince,” he continued. “Those tunes awakened my mind to the possibility of being moved by music with no words.

“To be able to recreate those tunes with the electric guitar and play with Vince is really something I could never have dreamed of.”

In the music video’s closing statement, McKee said that his initial love for instrumental music stemmed from the film’s soundtrack, and added that Vince DiCola’s name was one that has been “etched in my memory” ever since he first heard it.

“I am so honored to release this arrangement with Vince and I am eternally grateful for his influence on my life through music,” he reflected.

The Rocky IV Medley is joined on the Symbol EP by the aforementioned Prince and Hedges tracks, as well as versions of Preston Reed’s Chattanooga, Billy McLaughlin’s Clockshop and Jeremy Soule’s Streets of Whiterun.

Andy McKee's Symbol is out now.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.